MM: Rich Mullins post-mortem

I’ve called attention to Twila Paris before as a non-scandalized, constant voice in Christian music.  From what I know of the late Rich Mullins, he was in a similar category, although not nearly as widely sung in churches.  The familiar “Step By Step” is a product of his band–presumably more the creative work of the bandmate known as “Beaker,” and “Awesome God” is well known, but very little of Mullins’s music seems congregationally singable.  Still, I’d like to share this review I wrote once for Worship Leader magazine:

The Jesus Record

Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band

Myrrh

Drawn to the notion of listening to Rich Mullins’s pre-tragedy boom box demos, I rushed to the headphones and heard these honest-hearted offerings to the Lord.  The band’s fully developed renditions of the songs, just as pleasing, are on the second CD in the set.

In leading worship, we come to know the feeling of lonely distance from God as well as astounding intimacy.  The laments in “Hard To Get” turn toward God in open inquiry:  Is He is purposefully keeping His distance?  I may be “only lashing out at the one who loves me most,” but my soul needs answers sometimes:  “You who live in radiance, hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin. . . .”

The hit single “My Deliverer,” like other cuts, has undergone an effective ‘Muffin metamorphosis.  And though “That Where I Am, There You . . .” isn’t a creative pinnacle, anyone can sing along with it.

The pleading, hauntingly beautiful “Jesus . . .” and “Nothing Is Beyond You” are extraordinary solo worship pieces.  Amy Grant’s earnest, engaging vocals on the latter make me wish it were more geared for the average congregational worshipper.  “All the Way to Kingdom Come” is a praise tribute in a southern rock milieu.

This album’s earthy warmth — characteristic of Mullins — glows brightly amid the sometimes-mechanized expressions of today’s worship music.  Though the meandering lyrics of several songs are inspired reflections of the artistry of Rich Mullins, not many are likely to be widely used in congregational worship.  Nevertheless, get this album to nourish your own spirit.

– Brian Casey, 1998

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Consistent voices

Christendom has its share of struggles and scourges. There’s truly a lot to criticize (although not as much as the news media appears to believe).

But I find in contemporary Christian culture that there have been some consistent voices … voices that have spoken for more than a decade and have not succumbed to scandal. Voices whose messages have been sound and inspirational. No person should be idolized, and I’m no groupie, but I have retained a certain admiration for some of these folks and thought it would be worthwhile to mention them. Honor to whom honor is due. . . .

  • Twila Paris, worship songwriter (and, to a lesser extent, a singer) whose contemporary anthems and God-oriented songs have moved many for more than two decades
  • Michael Card, songwriter (and, again, to a lesser extent, a singer) who has a particular gift with reducing large-scope biblical messages into coherent, poignant song lyrics
  • Michael W. Smith, the now-legendary Christian songwriter who has an absolutely horrible voice but whom I find to have both a creative gift and a humble heart
  • Fernando Ortega, singer-songwriter whose earthy lyrics are as beautiful as they are Godly
  • Bob Kauflin, known primarily a songwriter for Glad and other groups, but who also does steady, local church work in Maryland (his “I Stand In Awe,” by the way, has been corruptly dumbed-down by many a cappella churches)
  • Rich Mullins, who perished while driving in the Heartland some 10-or-so years ago, whose songs and mission with Native Americans were equally well-conceived
  • Graham Kendrick, a British songwriter who’s been “around,” having been part of the British worship renewal that began more than 20 years ago
  • Max Lucado, whose writings have probably touched millions … I haven’t kept up with the last 5 or 6 books but have been inspired many times in the past
  • and I should surely name Billy Graham, despite my disagreements with his soteriology … the man had/has character

I claim no personal knowledge of these people’s lives but have never heard them ill spoken of, and have a fair amount of experience with many of their works through the years. They seem sincerely enagaged in Kingdom work to me.

Would anyone care to add to the list?